Andrei Svechnikov wants to be part of the solution as a rookie forward with the Carolina Hurricanes this season.
The Hurricanes have gotten off to a promising start with the hope of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons, having scored 23 goals in six games (4-1-1). Svechnikov is doing his share.
The 18-year-old, selected No. 2 in the 2018 NHL Draft, has four points (two goals, two assist) and two game-winning goals. The Hurricanes control 67.54 percent of all shots attempted at even strength with Svechnikov on the ice.
He scored his first NHL goal in an 8-5 win against the New York Rangers on Oct. 7 and was presented with a plaque by the team in the locker room after the game.
When asked to give a speech, Svechnikov smiled and said, “OK, boys we got to win every game and just, good job.” The delivery might not have been perfect, but the message was loud and clear.
“When I was growing up, this was my dream, to score the first goal in the NHL and now that I scored, I’m super happy,” Svechnikov said. “We want to just do our jobs, listen to our coach, and win every game.”
Svechnikov (6-foot-2, 188 pounds) is adjusting with every NHL shift. Coach Rod Brind’Amour has him in a bottom-six role alongside Jordan Martinook and Lucas Wallmark to begin the season and he’s averaged 12:28 in ice time.
“From where he started to the first preseason game to the first regular-season game to where he is now, he’s picking up stuff super fast,” Brind’Amour said. “I’ll be honest with you, I had some concerns on the defensive side and I still do, but he’s learning and picking it up. It’s a testament to him because he wants to learn. He’s willing to sit down and listen every day, and we love to do that.”
Hurricanes director of amateur scouting Tony MacDonald likes the fact Svechnikov takes pride in doing the little things well and knows how to adapt because he’s such a quick learner.
“Andrei has his own style and his game is perfectly suited to the one that is played today,” MacDonald said. “Our only other second overall pick in the draft was Eric Staal in 2003, and while they are different type players, the one thing Svechnikov and Staal have in common is they score big goals in clutch situations.
“The player for me that Andrei most resembles in stature and style is Andrew Ladd, who we moved up to draft No. 4 in 2004. They are both big, strong and smart power wingers, and are skilled, efficient, play responsible defense and score goals. Andrei is blessed with more speed and can play any style game.”
Brind’Amour said the biggest thing with Svechnikov is understanding no shift is insignificant.
“More than anything, I think he just takes a little breath here and there and you just can’t in this League when you’re out there,” Brind’Amour said. “But he’s finding his way.”
Martinook, acquired by the Hurricanes in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on May 3, has been impressed with Svechnikov’s strength and hard work in the tough areas to create offense.
“He’s got all the skill in the world, but you see how hard he pushes,” Martinook said. “He pushes the pace, he pushes me, he pushes (Wallmark). We’ll come off from a good shift where all three of us just gave it a little bit, and he’s like, ‘Let’s go again.’ He’s a Russia-born player, but he’s been here for a couple years and speaks good English. He’s very vocal out there, which is awesome to have for a young guy. He obviously wants to be the best player he can.”
Svechnikov was named the 2017-18 Canadian Hockey League Top Prospect of the Year, after he had 72 points (40 goals, 32 assists), nine power-play goals, six game-winning goals and a plus-26 rating in 44 regular-season games for Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League.
He also was considered the most NHL-ready player not named Rasmus Dahlin in the 2018 draft. Dahlin was selected No. 1 by the Buffalo Sabres.
“Dahlin was the best D-man in the draft and we felt Svechnikov was the best forward so it worked out that both teams got what they wanted, and more importantly, what they needed,” MacDonald said. “It was important to draft a player who could fit into the lineup right away and be capable of contributing to the team effort.
“Andrei is very humble and respectful, yet at the same time he exudes a quiet confidence that is a common trait found in strong leaders.”